ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox returned to dingy Tropicana Field on Friday night for the first time since Game 4 of the American League Division Series last October.
They beat the Tampa Bay Rays that night, a significant step on the way to the World Series title, and soaked the visitor’s clubhouse in champagne and beer.
Seven months later, that same clubhouse was more of a mausoleum after the Sox were beaten, 1-0, in the bottom of the ninth inning to run their losing streak to eight games.
Cole Figueroa, a 27-year-old rookie playing his fourth major league game, doubled to the gap in right field to drive in Desmond Jennings from second base.
The 20-27 Sox are in last place in the American League East and have the second-worst record in the league. They’ve lost nine of their last 10 games.
The losing streak is the longest since the hopeless 2012 Red Sox lost their final eight games to send Bobby Valentine packing. The last nine-game losing streak was in 2001 under interim manager Joe Kerrigan, who wasn’t retained.
There was another injury, too. Right fielder Shane Victorino left in the ninth inning with a strained right hamstring, the same injury that caused him to miss the first 22 games of the season.
Manager John Farrell said the injury doesn’t appear as serious this time. But a return to the disabled list is likely for Victorino. That would weaken an outfield that is already one of the least productive in the game.
“We’ve got to win games. I’ve got no answers for you,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “It’s not like we’re going to flip a switch. We’re not quitting. We’re playing hard. We’re just getting outplayed and that needs to change.”
The Red Sox wasted seven shutout innings by John Lackey, who scattered five hits and stranded three runners at third base. Andrew Miller (1-3) got the final two outs of the eighth inning and one in the ninth before walking Jennings.
Farrell went to righthander Burke Badenhop to face righthanded-hitting Sean Rodriguez and Tampa Bay pinch hit Figueroa, a lefty hitter.
The Red Sox guessed Jennings would be running on the second pitch and called a pitchout. Badenhop thought he left the ball too high and the throw from catcher A.J. Pierzynski sailed as well.
“One thing about Jennings, he can fly. It takes a lot of perfection to get him,” Pierzynski said.
With Jennings at second, Badenhop left a 0-and-2 pitch over the plate and the game was soon over.
Pierzynski was at the wrong end of a play at second base in the top of the ninth. He had a leadoff single off Juan Carlos Oviedo but was thrown out at second when Victorino tried to bunt.
Third baseman Evan Longoria snapped the bunt up and Pierzynski, a slow runner, didn’t even slide.
“Longo’s one of the best third basemen in the league. It was one-hopper right to him. It was tough. I’m not fast,” Pierzynski said. “I’ll get the best jump I can. I’ll go as hard as I can. There was nothing I could do.”
Farrell said he didn’t pinch run Jonathan Herrera for Pierzynski for fear of the game going extra innings.
Chris Archer and three relievers held the Red Sox to five hits, two after the second inning. The Sox left two runners stranded in the first inning and two more in the second.
Brock Holt doubled to start the fifth inning but Xander Bogaerts and Pedroia struck out. After Tampa Bay intentionally walked David Ortiz, Mike Napoli hit a low line drive that was caught by shortstop Yunel Escobar.
Lackey kept the Sox in the game, working into the eighth inning.
“Felt pretty good. Didn’t give up any runs and their guy pitched good, too, and the bullpen behind him was good,” Lackey said. “One of those nights.”
The Sox have scored 16 runs in the last eight games and hit .220. They haven’t had a lead since Sunday.
“I wouldn’t say it’s surprising because teams go through stretches like that. But last year we won a lot of games when we scored one or two runs,” hitting coach Greg Colbrunn said. “You have to trust veteran players to do what they do. They’re in there grinding.”
The Sox are 5-11 in one-run games and have lost, 1-0, twice in the last eight days.
Jake Peavy, hit hard in his last two starts, faces tough lefty David Price on Saturday. Then the Sox will call up a pitcher from the minors to start on Sunday. This streak, dispiriting as it is, won’t be easy to snap.
Pedroia was asked to gauge the mood of his teammates.
“Mood? We’re in the mood to win,” he said.
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